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Vanguard Furniture Adds to John Black’s Compendium Collection

Furniture World News


Compendium is an apropos name for a collection created by distinguished furniture designer John Black. It is a relatively small collection of highly curated and eclectic pieces. In April, Vanguard will be adding half a dozen case pieces and an exquisite new dining chair in both a wood and upholstered version.

Tables in the 15th century were of fixed size and heavy to move, but in the 16th century a device known as a “draw top” made it possible to lengthen the size for additional guests. This top was composed of three pieces, where two leaves were stored under the main top and were “withdrawn” out to extend the surface of the table on wooden runners. These served as both work surfaces and dining tops. 

The Darius Draw Table (pictured above) has a framed top and leaves and is supported by stylized square cabriole legs and braced with decorative brackets. Its execution in white oak allows the table great aesthetic flexibility through finish options. Add a unique chair style and the table can be interpreted as modern, transitional or traditional in style. 

Andy Bray, President of Vanguard says, “John Black is the most knowledgeable person I know about furniture forms and the history behind them. He continues to amaze the industry with his fresh interpretation of timeless designs adjusting scale, finish, materials and nuanced detail to take a form from the 18th century to the 21st.” He calls this “investment quality furniture because of its timeless design and extraordinary craftsmanship. These are heirlooms of the future intended to be passed through the generations.”

Compendium is a collection of eclectic designs that work well together. The line has grown over the last four years by selectively adding pieces and multiple edits to ensure that only the best of the best remain. It draws heavily on the neoclassic period, primarily because its linear forms have an elegant simplicity that can be interpreted through finish. For example, a case finished in a rich deep brown with dry brush highlighting makes it traditional. However, the same case with a lighter finish can become more casual, informal and modern.

According to Black, “…the furniture forms we live with today have been around for centuries. I try to get into the mind of the original designer and channel their inspiration and intent. In each piece, I strive for design integrity so that it can work well in several environments, yet has its own intrinsic value. My goal is to create a perfect harmony that still leaves room for individual embellishment. One of my great joys is seeing how Vanguard’s customers, some of the finest interior designers around the world, customize these pieces through the multiple finish options Vanguard offers and how they incorporate and use the product line as a whole to make a statement.” Following are descriptions of a few new styles which will be on display in October, along with a few fun historical facts regarding their inspiration.

8202HD Nicholas Dresser
The forerunner of the modern filing cabinet began in 18th century France. As the need for storing and retrieving paper records became necessary, the development of the cartonnier, an ornamental rack of pigeonholes and drawers that sat upon a writing desk, came to be. Cartonniers were usually quite ornate and were made of leather or employed other decorative embellishment.

  • Nine drawers with Antique Bronze or Light Pewter hardware
  • Mixed materials of wood and leather create a unique, eclectic look
  • Shallow footprint works well in smaller spaces

Historical Fun Fact
The Nicholas chest is inspired by French cartonniers. Here, each drawer front is covered in antiqued leather with rigid, demilune bail pulls. This four-drawer chest has an inset top over an oak case and with plain posts.

85 Dendra Bar Cabinet
Derived from the early 20th century French Art Deco styling, the Dendra “case on stand” has an inset molded cornice over a pair of framed doors of antiqued mirror, opening to a lighted interior with a mirrored back and glass shelves. The open base, with a single mirrored drawer, is raised on square tapered legs joined by stretchers.

Antique Bronze or Light Pewter stylized “bowtie” rigid pulls on doors.

  • One adjustable glass shelves inside. 
  • Decorative antique mirror projects a glamorous vibe. 
  • One drawer provides ample storage
Historical Fun Fact
In America, Jazz came to define an era of modernity in the early 20th century. Furniture, by high-end French designers, used decorative veneers and materials on modified traditional forms that eventually affected conventional American tastes. This change in attitude brought about new forms of furnishings often described as glamorous. This new style was expressed in textiles, lacquer, jewelry, ceramics and glass.

The Agatha Bergére
The Agatha bergére is a modernized version of an iconic French upholstered lounge chair and has its characteristic exposed wooden frame, a padded back with stylized, wide arms flanking a curved, loose T-cushion seat. The frame is raised on turned tapered legs, with brass sabots.

  • Perfect candidate for upholstery tack decoration and paint applications
  • Scaled and proportioned for a narrow and deep footprint
  • Geometric shaped arms contrast well with otherwise traditional form 

Historical Fun Fact
The forerunner of the current lounge chair was the 18th century French bergére (closed-arm chair) that was fitted with a loose, but tailored, seat cushion and had a deeper and wider configuration than its cousin, a fauteuil chair (open-arm chair). It had an exposed wood frame that was raised and usually adorned with brass sabots.

8325DC Amalia Cabinet
A tall, narrow cabinet of 19th century Neoclassical influence, it has a refined molded cornice over two wood framed glass doors with graduated horizontal mullions and sits atop a lower case with two framed glass doors on a plinth base with raised block feet.

  • Also available with wooden doors on the base
  • Perfect candidate for painting the back panel in a contrasting color
  • Stylized round bar pulls have reeded detailing
Historical Fun Fact
Derived from built-in book presses primarily found in libraries, the Amalia cabinet allows for decorative storage in a demure footprint. The famous English diarist Samuel Pepys, for his library in Cambridge, commissioned the first known freestanding bookcase with glass, or glazed doors, in 1666. He would have needed a cabinet like this as the diary of a decade of his life was more than a million words long and is still used today by historians to gain greater insight and understanding of life in London in the 17th century.

The iconic period of design called mid-century recalls a vision of simple lines and shapes. It is with this discipline that the Altair sofa was designed as a stylized silhouette with slim waterfall arms accented with a double welted banding. The base is raised on six turned legs with brass ferrules.

About Vanguard Furniture: Vanguard Furniture is a manufacturer and marketer of case goods and upholstery. It is a family held company, employing 600 associates and operates out of six manufacturing buildings in Hickory, North Carolina, and a 40,000 square foot showroom in High Point, NC and its newest manufacturing location in Hillsville, Virginia. Its mission is to lead home furnishings in style, value and service with a vision to enrich lives through custom-crafted furniture. Vanguard is a founding member of the Sustainable Furniture Council and its green initiatives include recycling 95% of all post manufacturing waste; recycling paper, fabric scraps, metal, wood scrap, plastic and corrugated products. The showroom is located at 301 N Hamilton Street in High Point. For more information, see www.vanguardfurniture.com

About John Black: John Black is a furniture designer and founder of the creative design firm that bears his name, J Black Design. He is the creative visionary behind some of the most compelling furniture designs in the world of interiors today. He is not an interior designer, nor is he a furniture manufacturer; he is a classically trained dedicated furniture designer. You have no doubt seen many of his designs in beautiful homes, shelter magazines, fine furniture shops, and design studios across the country—without knowing who designed them.

At heart, John is both a modernist and a classicist. He is best known for an understated, classic approach to furniture forms that capture the essence of traditional silhouettes combined with modern touches. He is an artist and a mechanic with an unfailing, critical eye for scale and proportion. Today John Black is both a master and a student of design.

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